Bergevin’s Offseason Roster Moves Have Canadiens Flying
The latest on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois in today’s NHL rumor mill.
Boom. Told that the Blue Jackets are also sending a third-round pick to Winnipeg as part of this blockbuster deal. https://t.co/ZtyyhiV5aP
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 23, 2021
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman was among several pundits last night reporting on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen is reportedly aggressively shopping the 22-year-old center after he was benched for most of Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Friedman speculates a deal could come as early as Saturday morning
Sources claim the Winnipeg Jets are offering up a package that includes forward Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, a Columbus native who’s currently unsigned. The Anaheim Ducks are believed to have increased their offer while the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens are said to be among the suitors. Friedman reports it’s not believed the Canadiens are willing to include center Nick Suzuki in their offer.
Friedman’s colleague Chris Johnston tweeted the Jets are believed to have the best offer on the table. The Blue Jackets are continuing to gauge the market to see if they’ll get better offers.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports it’s unclear if Dubois will be enough to land Laine and Roslovic or if the Jackets will have to sweeten the pot. The Jets are said to be in the market for a defenseman. Laine is a restricted free agent this summer and getting him to agree to a long-term extension will be a concern for the Jackets. Portzline speculates it could cost around $2 million annually to sign Roslovic.
It’s unknown what the Ducks and Canadiens are offering. Portzline believes the Jackets would be interested in top prospects such as the Ducks’ Trevor Zegras or the Canadiens’ Cole Caufield.
In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Los Angeles Kings should pursue Dubois. She feels there’s no trade fit between the Kings and Blue Jackets, pointing out the Jackets will want a player in return who gives them some version of what Dubois gives them. Promising young Kings prospects like Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield have yet to play an AHL game, let alone an NHL contest.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards believes the Panthers should get into the bidding for Dubois. He could fill the second-line center role behind Aleksander Barkov, giving the Panthers a solid one-two punch down the middle. Panthers general manager Bill Zito is former assistant GM of the Blue Jackets and knows Dubois and Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen well. Richards doubts a package of draft picks and prospects will get it done because the Jackets aren’t in rebuild mode.
TSN: The Panthers are among Frank Seravalli’s list of seven teams that don’t have an interest in Dubois or the assets to acquire him. The Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights are the others.
Seravalli wondered if the Canadiens would part with Jesperi Kotkaniemi to land Dubois. His colleague, Pierre LeBrun, listed the Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes reached out to the Jackets.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty reports the Bruins are not among the clubs pursuing Dubois.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes as many as 20 teams have reached out to Kekalainen about Dubois. However, he doubts the Senators are among them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois could be traded to one of the aforementioned teams by the time you read this. On the other hand, this could drag on throughout the weekend or perhaps longer. It’ll be interesting to see what the deal looks like when it finally goes down.
Kekalainen wants to trade Dubois as soon as possible. The center’s benching on Thursday created a festering situation that threatens to worsen if left unaddressed. Nevertheless, he’s not going to just give him away. He’ll want a return that provides immediate help to his struggling roster.
Many of the teams linked to Dubois could merely be doing due diligence. They’re understandably interested in the two-way center but could quickly back away once they learn about the asking price. Still, one of them could surprise with a last-minute offer that meets the Jackets’ requirements.
That return could come from the Jets if Laine and Roslovic are part of a package deal but the Jets will certainly want more than Dubois in return. A defenseman might have to be included in that package.
The Canadiens have been linked to Dubois for some time with speculation suggesting Suzuki or Kotkaniemi will have to be part of the package. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could be reluctant to part with either promising youngster especially given their roles in the Habs’ strong start to this season.
I’m not sure what the Ducks could offer up besides Zegras to the Blue Jackets. Maybe GM Bob Murray packages Zegras with another young forward like Sam Steel, Max Comtois or Max Jones.
The Flames already seem set with Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan as their top-two centers. They may have to part with one of them or perhaps a winger like Johnny Gaudreau to make this work.
Could the Canadiens acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois? Could the Panthers move Aleksander Barkov? Would they shop Keith Yandle to the Bruins? What’s the latest on the Oilers’ goaltending? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE CANADIENS ACQUIRE DUBOIS?
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens’ rumored pursuit of Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois could be a complex and risky endeavor.
He believes Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen would want Nick Suzuki and something else in return. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could counter with Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the centerpiece of a package with a top prospect also included.
In order to take on Dubois’ $5 million annual average value, the Canadiens would have to send a roster player earning more than $3 million (such as Paul Byron) to the Jackets.
Engels suggests it’s possible Bergevin could part with Kotkaniemi. However, he’s not sure the Habs GM would also want to include one of his top prospects in the deal. Bergevin could also be outbid by the Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators or Anaheim Ducks.
The restrictions on travel between Canada and the United States also complicates things. Engels suggests the Canadiens would be without Dubois for 14 days while he completes mandatory self-quarantine before he could join them. They’d also be without the player or players they’d give up in the deal during that period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquiring Dubois would be a tempting option for the Canadiens, but that deal will be expensive. I don’t see Bergevin parting with Suzuki. Kotkaniemi is possible but he’s got plenty of promising upside. Giving up a prospect such as Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhle or Mattias Norlinder could also be tough to swallow.
Even if Bergevin is willing to part with Kotkaniemi and one of his best prospects, making the dollars fit would be difficult. Byron is a former 20-goal scorer but the 31-year-old last hit that mark in 2017-18 and he’s been waylaid by injuries over the last two seasons. The Jackets could also be reluctant to take on a winger who turns 32 in April with two years remaining on his contract.
Bergevin could try to offer up another roster player but he doesn’t have many to spare that would suit the Jackets. Tomas Tatar is a free agent this summer while depth forwards like Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen each earn less than $3 million annually. The Jackets won’t take Jonathan Drouin’s $5.5 million AAV.
Kekalainen is reportedly being patient with Dubois’ situation. Bergevin might be wise to follow the same tactic and see how this season plays out. Perhaps they could revisit this in the offseason. Then again, there might not be any need for the Canadiens to make this deal if Suzuki and Kotkaniemi blossom into stars this season.
UPDATE ON BARKOV AND YANDLE
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Panthers GM Bill Zito told captain Aleksander Barkov there’s no truth to trade rumors suggesting he might be available. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Thursday that Barkov was drawing interest from rival general managers. The report was based on whether the 25-year-old center would re-sign with the Panthers this summer, and if not, would they consider trading him.
“Bill talked to me right away, he told me they aren’t true,” said Barkov. “So it’s all good and I am concentrating on the start of the season. Thank you for mentioning this is my first time being mentioned in trade rumors.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt there were some general managers calling Zito to find out what changes he had in store for the Panthers this season and if Barkov might be part of them. It should be pointed out that Seravalli noted in his report that Zito intends to re-sign his captain.
Maybe that becomes a problem if the Panthers fail to improve this season. For now, I don’t see Barkov going anywhere.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites sources claiming if and when Zito asks Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause, he will do it for the Bruins. Murphy feels the main question is whether the Bruins would want the 34-year-old defenseman and his $6.35 million AAV through 2022-23.
Murphy cites reports indicating Bruins GM Don Sweeney spoke to Zito about what it would take to acquire Yandle but nothing came of it. He feels the Bruins seem determined to stick with their youth movement on defense and wouldn’t want to risk exposing Brandon Carlo or Matt Grzelcyk to this summer’s expansion draft if they acquired Yandle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Yandle’s cap hit was a key reason why those rumored talks didn’t go far. If the Bruins remain interested in bringing Yandle back to his home state it might be best to do so after the expansion draft, and only if the Panthers agree to pick up part of his cap hit.
LATEST ON THE OILERS
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers’ goaltending situation has gone from bad to worse this week. First, they lost Anton Forsberg to Carolina via waivers on Tuesday. On Friday, Mike Smith was placed on long-term injury reserve, taking him out of the lineup for at least 10 games.
Given the high number of back-to-back games the Oilers face in this shortened season, Staples wonders what GM Ken Holland will do. “Overpay? Patiently wait for some goalie to pop up on the waiver wire?”
Staples noted some Oilers’ observers are suggesting a trade for someone like Arizona’s Antti Raanta or Toronto’s Michael Hutchinson. Others suggest signing UFA Jimmy Howard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were taking a risk bringing back the 38-year-old Smith for another season. If anything happens to Mikko Koskinen they will be well and truly screwed. There simply aren’t many palatable options available right now. Holland might not have much choice but to be patient and hope a decent netminder becomes available soon.
The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.
Hearing @nhlpa @nhl has no dialogue on weekend for 1st time in weeks. Without knowing repercussions for denying owners request, players tell me they have little choice but to sit/wait. Some say league could threaten to push back start as late as Feb 1st /48 games @Line_Movement
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) November 23, 2020
The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.
Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.
Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.
According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.
Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.
Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.
OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.
It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.
NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Lightning, Bruins, and Avalanche march on to the second round, the Canucks have the Blues on the brink of elimination, and the Canadiens stave off elimination. Check out the recaps in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brayden Point’s overtime goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-4 series-clinching victory in Game 5 of their first-round series, avenging last year’s first-round elimination by the Blue Jackets. Point also picked up two assists while Nikita Kucherov collected three helpers. Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.
GAME AND SERIES! Bolts win 5-4 in OT!
Brayden Point is Mr. Clutch again for the @TBLightning!
— FOX Sports Bolts (@FOXSportsBolts) August 19, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was easily the most entertaining game of this series. The Lightning saw an early 2-0 lead erased as the Jackets took a 4-2 lead, but rallied back to tie the game, setting the stage for Point’s overtime heroics. It was a tough loss for the plucky Jackets, but their lack of scoring depth cost them against a Lightning club more motivated and better-prepared compared to last year’s series.
Patrice Bergeron’s goal in the dying seconds of the second period held up as the winner to give the Boston Bruins a series-clinching 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of their opening-round series. David Krejci tallied the game-tying goal in the second period and the Bruins shut the door on the Hurricanes in the third.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins recovered their dominant form following a lackluster round-robin. They also overcame the departure of starting goalie Tuukka Rask for family reasons midway through this series. The Hurricanes have a bright future but they still have depth issues to sort out. Losing sniper Andrei Svechnikov to a leg injury in Game 3 didn’t help.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon’s four-point performance (two goals, two assists) carried his club to a series-clinching 7-1 drubbing of the Arizona Coyotes in Game 5 of their first-round series. Nazem Kadri also scored twice for the Avs in their second-straight lopsided win. Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper gave up six goals on 30 shots. Following the game, it was revealed Arizona forward Christian Dvorak played this series with a separated shoulder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t blame Kuemper for his club’s implosion. The Coyotes were overmatched from the start, and it was only because of their starting goaltender that they kept this series reasonably close through the first three games. The dam burst in Game 4 and there was no stopping the Avs’ offensive flood in Game 5.
The Vancouver Canucks have the defending champion St. Louis Blues on the brink of elimination following a 4-3 comeback win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in their series. The Canucks overcame a 3-1 deficit with unanswered second-period goals by J.T. Miller, Jake Virtanen, and Tyler Motte, who scored twice in this contest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues appeared to have this one in the bag when they went up 3-1, but they sagged as the Canucks pushed back throughout the second period. It was a costly win for the Canucks as defenseman Alexander Edler left the game after being struck in the head by a skate. An update on his status could come later today.
The Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination with a wild 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of their first-round series. Joel Armia scored twice, Nick Suzuki tallied the game-winner, and Brendan Gallagher snapped his goalless drought. Jakub Voracek scored twice for the Flyers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the most physical contest of the series. Jesperi Kotkaniemi earned a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding Travis Sanheim in the second period, which the Flyers cashed in on with two power-play goals. The Habs rallied back with two goals to regain the lead. Joel Farabee tied it early in the third before Nick Suzuki and Phillip Danault put it away for the Habs. Gallagher set the tone for the Habs with his feisty play but may have suffered a fractured jaw after being cross-checked in the mouth by Matt Niskanen, who could face supplemental discipline.
MASSLIVE.com: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask reportedly left the club to deal with a specific family emergency. Rask spoke with WEEI’s Greg Hill, who said the netminder received a call from his wife that there was a medical emergency with their daughter. Hill didn’t reveal the details of what Rask told him, adding that the goalie’s daughter is okay now.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck will be in the lineup against the Washington Capitals in Game 5 tonight. Clutterbuck left Game 4 following a low hit from Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas. The Islanders lead the series 3-1.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle reports the Toronto Maple Leafs received permission from the Minnesota Wild to speak with former head coach Bruce Boudreau. No formal interview has been conducted and the Leafs declined to comment, but sources close to Boudreau say he’s intrigued. The Leafs seek a replacement for departed assistant coach Paul McFarland.
TSN: The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Zach Fucale to a one-year, two-way contract.